SPEAKING THE GOOD WORD
… A good word is like a good tree whose roots are firm and whose branches are in Heaven. It bears fruit regularly by its Lord's permission... (Surah Ibrahim, 24-25)
In the previous sections, we mentioned that the good word is a call made to Allah's way, and we discussed the mindset of those who follow the good word, and those who do not. But, in addition, Allah also commands people, in the Qur'an, to speak well and address everyone kindly. This is a requirement for the morality of the Qur'an. Believers, who carefully observe this commandment of Allah, speak to one another with respect, take care to choose the best words, and speak about the good qualities of others. Following the advice of Allah's Messenger (saas), "Do not belittle even the smallest act of kindness" (Muslim) they pay great attention this subject. Believers never humiliate others by pointing out their errors and shortcomings, for Allah prohibits such behavior:
You who believe! People should not ridicule others who may be better than themselves; nor should any women ridicule other women who may be better than themselves. And do not find fault with one another or insult each other with derogatory nicknames. How evil it is to have a name for evil conduct after coming to faith! Those people who do not turn from it are wrongdoers. (Surat al-Hujurat, 11)
Another example is found in the verses regarding the proper manner of speaking towards one's parents. One verse reads:
Your Lord has decreed that you should worship none but Him, and that you should show kindness to your parents. Whether one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say "Ugh!" to them out of irritation and do not be harsh with them but speak to them with gentleness and generosity. (Surat al-Isra´, 23)
As seen, Allah also teaches believers how to speak well, and the need of being good towards one's parents. Indeed, the example stated in the above verse is one of the clearest in this regard. Those do not live by the religion will also tend to speak to their parents with respect. But, once their personal well-being is at stake, or when they encounter something they dislike, they may suddenly change their disposition. A believer, however, who lives by the morality of the Qur'an, is tender and respectful towards his parents, to the extent of not even grunting in impatience. And, he remains dutiful throughout his life, and under all conditions, for this is the noblest way to attain Allah's good pleasure. The importance of saying the good word in all circumstances is emphasized by our Prophet (saas) in the following way:
And anyone who believes in Allah and the Last Day should say what is good or keep quiet. (Bukhari)
We should also state that as another requirement from Allah, believers not only speak well towards one another, but also show proper regard for anyone they meet. One of the finest examples of this was the manner Allah advised the Prophet Musa (as) to address Pharaoh. Surely, Pharaoh was one of history's cruelest tyrants. Despite this fact, Allah commanded the Prophet Musa (as) as follows:
"Go to Pharaoh; he has overstepped the bounds. But speak to him with gentle words so that hopefully he will pay heed or show some fear." (Surah Ta Ha, 43-44)
Of course, the Prophet Musa's (as) gentleness towards Pharaoh, though he was a clear enemy of the religion and the Muslims, was an important example, in that it reveals the ideals expected in Islam. As the example shows, believers select the finest words in calling others to Allah. In the following example in the Qur'an, Allah explains that good words are of benefit to all:
Have you not considered how Allah makes a metaphor? A good word is like a good tree whose roots are firm and whose branches are in Heaven. It bears fruit regularly by its Lord's permission. Allah makes metaphors for people so that hopefully they will pay heed. The metaphor of a corrupt word is that of a rotten tree, uprooted on the surface of the earth. It has no staying-power. Allah makes those who believe firm with the Firm Word in the life of this world and the Hereafter. But Allah misguides the wrongdoers. Allah does whatever He wills. (Surah Ibrahim, 24-27)
As these verses relate, one who says the good word, and is compliant with it, will attain to great blessings, both in this world and in the world to come. However, both those whose words are corrupt, and those who adhere to them, are on the threshold of doom, leading ultimately to Hell. For this reason, what is incumbent upon believers is that they follow the good word, and strive to attain the abode of Paradise, with the blessings that ensue from such morality.
Satan Aims to Impede People From Speaking the Good Word to one Another
It is Satan who seeks to corrupt a great majority of humanity into not speaking the good word nor to follow it. The Qur'an informs us that, in this way, Satan aims to make people enemies of one another:
Say to My servants that they should only say the best. Satan wants to stir up trouble between them. Satan is an outright enemy to man. (Surat al-Isra´, 53)
Satan rebelled against Allah and, out of arrogance, refused to prostrate before the Prophet Adam (as). He then swore to mislead humanity, whom he despised, from the straight path. For this reason, Allah informs us, in many verses of the Qur'an, that Satan makes a concerted effort to hinder people from the straight path, and that he exercises his influence over a great majority of them, except the believers. His ruse of making the life of this world appealing to people, his planting vain desires and deviance in their hearts, and his leading them into immorality, such as pride, jealousy, selfishness and arrogance, are some of the Satan's efforts against man. Arrogance when called to faith in Allah, and to abide by the morality of the Qur'an, and putting forth instead excuses, are also among the effects of Satan. In this way, he strives to interfere in people's consciences and prevent them from submitting to Allah.
What Satan demands from people is that they not obey the voice of their conscience, and do just the contrary. He pursues this furtive goal in various ways, and tries to make people perceive amoral behavior as just and appealing. His deceitful ruses take effect on many, ultimately making them followers of Satan. Though, Satan does not actually exercise any power over the believers. In Surat an-Nahl, Allah informs us of this fact as follows:
He [Satan] has no authority over those who believe and put their trust in their Lord. He only has authority over those who take him as a friend and associate others with Allah. (Surat an-Nahl, 99-100)
Those who follow their vain desires, and make Satan their friend value mundane pleasures above all else. For instance, some, although their consciences would tell them to be forgiving towards another who had wronged them, or to speak politely to one who had spoken harshly to them, prefer not to forgive, and instead to answer the insult with a greater one. According to this perverse way of thinking, to speak peevishly, to ridicule another arrogantly with insulting language, and to respond with insolence and disrespect, is to them a sign of their own superiority. Such people do not listen to the voice of their conscience, for they are arrogant, following the way of Satan, and fail to obey the good word. Allah states this fact in the Qur'an as follows:
And they repudiated them wrongly and haughtily, in spite of their own certainty about them. See the final fate of the corrupters. (Surat an-Naml, 14)
Those prone to such immorality fail to recognize that the real life is that of the Hereafter, and thus, prefer to waste the time granted to them by complying with the whims of their lower-selves. Seeking appeasement of their lower-selves, by being cruel towards one who asks for help, or in responding impudently to the good word, are only some of the wicked ways those who follow the path of Satan little hesitate to adopt.
The fact is, however, as part of their nature, people are inclined to derive great pleasure from what is beautiful, from self-sacrifice, cooperation, love, respect and addressing others in a gentle manner. On the contrary, what is actually difficult is following the desires of the lower-self, and pursuing iniquity, for such behavior invariably results in difficulty, problems and chaos. To rid oneself of these inclinations, the only solution is to turn a deaf ear to the insinuations of Satan, and follow the voice of one's conscience.
For one who is aware of this fact, summoning others to the morality of the religion, and answering such a call, as well as speaking the good words, are recognized as forms of worship with rewards to be expected from Allah. One who enjoins the good, in the best manner possible, has found the way to draw both himself and others closer to Allah, to keep evil at bay, and render himself deserving eternal life in the Hereafter. Essentially, being invited through the good word, is like receiving a great gift, an invitation that should be accepted by believers with enthusiasm and great pleasure.